The Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. It is also diminishing rapidly. A new study published today in Science Advances looked at more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species and found that more than half of them may be at risk for extinction due to deforestation. This massive tree clearing threatens these forests’ biodiversity, their ability to mitigate climate change, and, in many places, the welfare and safety of local communities. Read more
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Since Sam Kass left his position as assistant White House chef and executive director of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign late last year, he has had no shortage of things to do. For one, he’s preparing to join the NBC News team as a senior food analyst. But first, Kass is planning some very important meals.
This December, 25,000 delegates from 190 nations will be meeting in Paris for the United Nation’s Conference of Parties or COP 21. The goal is to ensure every nation takes action to keep the average global temperature increase below 2 degrees centigrade by achieving a “binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.” Read more
Ever since Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm told Michael Pollan that he was a first and foremost a “grass farmer,” in one of the most well-known chapters of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the term has become commonplace among pasture-based farmers and ranchers working to raise animals on healthy grasslands. But what does it mean to farm grass in the American Southwest? Read more
If you’ve ever driven through the middle of the country, where single crops dominate the landscape for miles, you may think that the bulk of our farms grow just a few foods: corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice. Now, it turns out, you were right.
A new study published last month in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that U.S. crop diversity is significantly lower today than it was 30 years ago. So while it’s been a commonly held belief that U.S. farms are moving toward monoculture, and away from crop diversity, now there’s solid evidence to support that claim. Read more
When scientists Amrita Hazra and Patricia Bubner arrived in Berkeley, California a few years back to do post-doctoral science at the University of California, they bonded over what they saw as an alarming lack of diversity in the American diet.
For one, Hazra, from India, and Bubner, from Austria, had both grown up eating many more diverse grains than they could find in the States. And they both had a fondness for millet; Hazra likes to add it to soups, to give texture, while Bubner makes patties with it, or cooks it in milk like porridge and adds apples and honey. But, Hazra was disappointed to learn that the variety of millets consumed in India are not available here, and they found that most Americans hardly ate it at all. Read more
In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food. Read more
As you read this, wildfires are burning on about 1.7 million acres of land across the western United States. Most are in Washington and Oregon, where fire is raging uncontained in 23 separate locations. So far this year, nearly 7.7 million acres have been directly affected by wildfires—almost three times more than by this point last year. Read more
Attending Expo Milano 2015, the Universal Exposition currently taking place outside Milan, Italy, is not unlike going to an amusement park. “It feels a lot like Epcot [Center],” said Lizzie Hessek, a Philadelphia-based city planner who recently spent a day at the Expo.
There’s no cotton candy, there’s a complete lack of rides, and there are fewer chances to win prizes, but otherwise it’s a fair comparison. The event, which runs from May through October, fills up daily with big crowds, school groups in matching T-shirts, and lots of families. Smart visitors wear comfortable shoes to walk the long promenade, and performers dressed up as various foods—a fig, a leek, a pomegranate—roam the space. Read more
This story was adapted from a longer version at Ensia.
When a farmer wonders how much water a crop needs, a simple hands-on test has always sufficed: Grab a handful of soil and feel how it clumps together.
Now something else is helping inform the farmer’s touch: Data. Sensors, satellites, and software are adding piles of new data to help manage water on the farm. From soil moisture to leaf transpiration, pump speed to valve status, today’s farm fields can seem as wired as airports. Read more
Warming temperatures are killing off bumblebee populations across North America and Europe at an unprecedented rate, according to a new study published in Science. The study says global warming is putting a squeeze on these critical pollinators by shrinking their habitat ranges in both North America and Europe. Read more